Applications for the construction of 100 more hotel rooms in Nazareth's Old City are awaiting authorization, and 10 applications for the establishment of businesses in the tourism industry are pending approval as well.
The estimated investment in tourism totals at NIS 493 million ($139 million) – including NIS 98 million ($27.6 million) granted by the state as part of Law for the Encouragement of Capital Investment.
"Nazareth has been doing well in past few years, and there are many entrepreneurs wanting to open businesses in the tourism industry," said Sigal Ben-Oz of the Tourism Ministry.
The would-be business owners include not only those wanting to build large hotels, but also individuals who intend to host tourists in their own homes. According to Ben-Oz, the Tourism Ministry's decision to grant large incentives for the establishment of small businesses to entrepreneurs who reside in Nazareth has led to a wave of applications for businesses geared toward tourists.
A renovated cafe in town (Photo: Ziv Reinstein)
"Nazareth has been enjoying a growing number of tourists, but they would come for a half-day visit and then leave to stay in other places," Ben-Oz said. "Entrepreneurs saw the potential, and with the Tourism Ministry's support decided to march the city forward.
"Most of the entrepreneurs pass through the 'green track,' which was designed to accelerate the bureaucratic process," she added.
"We are doing everything to put the city back on the tourist map," Tourism Ministry Director-General Noaz Bar-Nir said. "The city's leaders know that tourism is its primary financial source, and we are helping them by opening new attractions and developing existing ones."
Hotels small and large
Some of the most recent additions to Nazareth's variety of hotels include the 120-room Gardenia Hotel, which caters largely to the religious crowd. The facility has a kashrut supervisor on site, as well as a pool and a gorgeous view. A spa and a gym are soon to be opened.
In addition to the new hotels that are under construction, older facilities are being renovated, including a 100-room hotel that has been closed since the Intifada.
Another such facility is a compound located on Nazareth's border with Kfar HaHoresh. Once a 120-room sanatorium, it is currently occupied by a local radio station, Ashams. But some of the rooms are already undergoing a renovation, and others are being built. A spa, a gym and a swimming pool overlooking the city, the sea and the nearby mountains are already operational.
Amir Shehadeh, a local architect, is completing these days the construction of an 18-room hotel, which has the option to be expanded by six rooms. The building, which Shehadeh is leasing, used to be a school. The new place, which includes a bar and a restaurant, is to be called Villa Nazareth.
A larger project, under construction in the center of town, belongs to the Afifi Group, a family company that owns Israel's third-largest bus company, the biggest tour company that caters to the Arab sector, and several other businesses.
The new commercial complex is to include a two-level shopping center, four levels of underground parking, and two towers, one of which will house a 186-room hotel. A restaurant is to be built atop the hotel, overlooking the Basilica of the Annunciation. The project is estimated to cost $24 million.
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